VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — After careers in collegiate soccer and professional cycling, Wes Seigler started hanging around boatyards and sought solace in fishing.
But that soon turned into frustration as equipment malfunctions and repairs became an annoyance.
“I figured I could make them better,” said Seigler, a 45-year-old Richmond native.
Thanks to persistence and a “learn-as-I-go-attitude,” Seigler Reels is pumping out some of the most high-end fishing reels in the world.
After starting a company in 2010, Seigler hit the benchmark for fishing gear manufacturers when one of his reels was named Best Fly Reel at the 2018 ICAST — an international trade show considered the mecca of new angling equipment.
“We were in our room after the show waiting on some dinner to be delivered and got a call from one of the guys at the awards ceremony telling us we needed to come back down,” Seigler said. “I told him it wasn’t a good time for a joke. I told him to get the award and send me a picture, thinking that’s exactly what this was, a joke.
“We’ve taken that award everywhere with us fishing, at the bar, you name it, it goes everywhere with us.”
The new-found fame has broadened the market for Seigler, who recently moved his factory from Reedville on the Middle Peninsula to Virginia Beach. In doubling the size of his operation, he made a capital investment of nearly $1 million, according to Virginia Beach Economic Development director Warren D. Harris. He brought six paid positions with him from Reedville and so far has added four more employees with the hopes of continued expansion.
Big Rock Sports, one of the top fishing-supply distributors in the world, has jumped on the bandwagon.
Seigler started his company with older, used machines that mill the reel parts from blocks of aluminum. He kept expanding and now has two newer models that will enable him to pump out more of the high-dollar fishing reels that sell from $275 and up. There are nine models that include two fly fishing reels. More are planned for the future.
“We don’t build reels, we make reels,” Seigler said. “We manufacture all the parts and assemble them.
“We’re just dudes who make stuff for fishermen.”
All of Seigler’s reels are laser engraved with company information and can be customized with personal or boat information.
The reels are lighter and more compact than most on the market and hold up in power situations, according to some who have used them.
Tim Romano wrote in the Angling Trade magazine that they “took a pretty healthy beating from me with no signs of wear” on a recent fly fishing expedition.
Seigler said most of the reels’ parts are interchangeable and because they are made with fewer parts than most, there is less to go wrong.
“I’ve designed a fly reel you can take apart with a fishing hook,” Seigler said. “Not all anglers carry tools with them other than pliers to remove hooks. So this is an aspect of the simplicity of our reels.”
Humble by nature, Seigler admits he sometimes has trouble grasping just what he’s built.
“Everybody here is just an island of misfits who each have some kind of special talent that really comes together so well,” he said. “I retired from racing, starting fishing, broke a few reels and decided to start a business.